I’ve been a mother for two decades. When I look back over the 20 years, I can’t help but feel #1 old and #2 as if I’m in still in motherhood’s stage of heavy lifting. When I had Wheeler, I would calculate what my age would be when he hit certain milestones. And the same happened after Everett was born. My thoughts would lead to me being 40 and I thought I would be coasting, Wheeler 20 and Everett 12. While that has definitely not come to fruition, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Things shift, but my feelings toward them have never coasted or expired to a different level. Like everything with autism, there is a positive and negative. Autism made me a better mother not only for Everett, but I was able to be better for Wheeler too. I couldn’t fake it with Everett. I had to do a lot of internal work to become strong enough to handle the will and struggles of a child with autism. After 20 years, the lessons motherhood have brought are numerous and frequent. I’m going to go through a few of those today.
Disclaimer: I have not mastered any of these things. I do not always get them right, but my goal is always progress and self awareness.
1. All mothers make mistakes, but how you handle them is what makes the difference in the long run. Apologize, be honest, and sit in a place that forces them to see that you aren’t perfect but handle it in a way that protects them. By doing this, you can eliminate so much resentment and teach your children about accountability and trust within relationships. This is also true with autism. When I make mistakes with Everett, they quickly blow up in my face. But it is easier to learn from those because they pack quite a punch and I’ll figure out how to avoid them again. It is harder to identify and take the time to fix our subtle mistakes with neuro-typical kids. When there is a lack of communication or silence in a situation, our kids will fill in the blanks and almost always we do that with negativity. We go on with our lives and don’t take the time to realize the emotional impact the mistake may have had on them.
2. Do NOT care what other people think. I am a people pleaser to the core. When someone is upset with me or just uncomfortable around me, I feel it at such a deep level. Everett’s autism took my need to make everyone happy and busted it wide open. He is the opposite. He could care less how his behaviors effect others or what other people think about him. People stare and can become very uncomfortable in his presence. My default reaction is to try and make others more comfortable when this happens. I am no longer willing to take energy to try and fix this every time it happens. It definitely still happens regularly, but what has changed is my need to take on anyone else’s reaction. I love that Everett doesn’t have the mental burden of worrying about what other people think about him.
Our human nature is to try and feel worthy in whatever circumstance and we equate worthiness with being liked or being the best at our activities. As adults, we have a tendency to deflect that to our children. We want them to excel, be successful, and reach their potential. But we must try to be careful and very aware of how much of that is about ourselves and not those precious little humans. I feel like our biggest goal in raising kids is for them to understand that they are lovable and worthy without any strings attached. I believe that caring what other people think and projecting that onto our kids is the number one barrier to reaching that goal.
3. Living in the present moment – Women are in an age of having the ability to design our lives exactly like we want them. But in our over-achieving world, we want it all and are sure that we can manage to have it all. The thing is – we absolutely can manage and fill our lives with everything we think we want. But what is the cost of that? We set our lives up like massive to do lists that have to be checked off before we can feel accomplished. We get focused and there is no stopping us. We don’t look up and understand that the journey is where the good stuff is. We live in a finish line society that we all work to perpetuate. Everett’s autism forced my perspective on this lesson. At the beginning of every single day, my mood acts as a mirror for Everett’s energy all day long. If I nag, push, or am irritated with him during our morning routine, it ruins his day (and everyone else he comes into contact with). He can’t regulate his mood or behavior well, so I have to set the tone for him. I have to be very intentional with how I talk to him, approach, and coax him all the time or it will go bad very quickly. To accomplish this, I have to be present. I can’t auto pilot with him. The lesson I’ve taken away is that being on auto pilot is not holding the moment we have been given as a gift. Whether you are a mother or not, we need to take on the task of being present in our daily lives and understand that while I was forced into present living to help Everett, this can be used on anyone we come into contact with and it’s a responsibility to do with our kids. Be silly, laugh, show your children how to savor the little moments of love that matter the most, and enjoy your day every chance you get.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing women out there!! Enjoy your day and love on those you cherish.